Thank you, Lynda. I haven't read a more cogent, sympathetic, or plausible group of predictions.
When I saw Mystic Riverback in July, I thought it inconceivable that anyone could give a more wrenching performance this year than Sean Penn. Then I wondered how anyone could be more magically perfect than Bill Murray. Amazingly enough, Johnny Depp and Ben Kingsley strike me as equally deserving. But my bet now is Murray for the reasons you've articulated.
Charlize Theron (and, by extension, Toni G.) will win, and Diane Keaton will get sustained applause when her nomination is announced. By the way, I've always thought that Theron was a terrific actress. And I can't wait to see her show off her new (old) bod.
I think Shohreh Aghdashloo will sneak out a win over Renée Zellweger—I've also heard that she has been wowing them at those academy luncheons. (Yes, Marcia Gay Harden was stunningly good, but she has won it so recently.)
We don't agree on the merits of Tim Robbins' performance, but my hunch is he takes it over Baldwin and Del Toro. (Will Robbins mention Halliburton? Susan Sarandon famously held her tongue last year; I wonder if Robbins will be able to resist.)
Peter Jackson wins along with his film; Sofia Coppla takes it for original screenplay; and Brian Helgeland gets the nod for Mystic River. I would love to see Master & Commander win for cinematography, but my hunch is that Lord of the Rings will take all the tech awards.
I haven't seen any of the foreign film nominees apart from BarbarianInvasions, which I think will win. (But who knows?) I don't have a clue about the documentary category: I've seen them all and think they're all extremely good, and I've never fully understood the academy's biases in this division. The Triplets of Belleville was one of my favorite films of the year—but so was Finding Nemo, and I doubt that the latter can be beaten in its own backyard by something so etrange.
The most explosive issue this year isn't the war or the election; it's ThePassion of the Christ. I don't envy Billy Crystal's joke writers. (And I dread the Gigli jokes—for God's sake, leave those people alone. And The Catin the Hat and The Life of David Gale were much worse.)
It will be fun to see Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett.
I'm opening the wine. See you on the other side.